Patellofemoral pain occurs on the anterior part of the knee, around the patella without any indications of damage to the other joint issues.
The patella is the kneecap bone which lies inside the quadriceps tendon. The rear part of the patella is lined with smooth cartilage that allows it to slide over the lower region of the femur when the leg is straightened.
What are the causes?
Patellofemoral pain might be due to a combination of various factors that adds up to the pressure in between the patella and the lower region of the femur. This can occur while running, squatting, cycling and going up or down the stairs. Remember that the cause varies for each person.
- Overuse of the knee especially in certain sports
- Issues with the alignment of the patella where it slides over the lower femur. This causes the patella to rub over the lower femur.
- Alignment issues and overuse in sports.
- Weak hip muscles can cause the thigh bone to turn slightly inwards which causes the patella to be pulled slightly to one side.
- Foot problems such as flat feet
- Knee injuries including repeated minor injuries or stress from sports as well as hypermobile joints.
Management for patellofemoral pain
- Avoid strenuous use of the knee until the pain settles. The symptoms typically improve over time if the knee is not overused. It is recommended to stay fit but minimize activities that trigger pain.
- Pain medications and/or anti-inflammatory drugs
- Physiotherapy aims on improving the strength of the muscles around the knee and hip. This eases the stress on the knee. Specific exercises can also help correct issues with alignment and muscular balance around the knee.
- Taping works by reducing the pain. An adhesive tape is place on the patella to change the position or how the patella shifts.
In the longer term, the treatment aims on managing some of the underlying causes. Surgery is not usually recommended since there is no proof that it is a better alternative than the other treatment options.